Carolina Value: Finance and Research Support Team (FiRST)

The Finance and Research Support Team provides a full range of services in research administration and finance to five departments located in the Physician’s Office Building (POB), and a range of services to an additional 12 School of Medicine Departments or Centers. In addition to providing high quality services to customers, the Team also provides a culture of support and professional development for its employees.

The School of Medicine Carolina Value work is focused on the key administrative areas of IT, Finance, Human Resources and Research Administration, with the goal of ensuring excellent service and accountability and providing consistency for processes that currently vary across multiple departments and units.

The finance and research administration service center team, which was recently renamed the Finance and Research Support Team (FiRST), began working with departments and Centers in 2012. The FiRST team is led by Tamala Gray, MSA, under the direction of Patsy Oliver, Associate Dean for Finance.

FiRST provides a full range of services in research administration and finance to five departments located in the Physician’s Office Building (POB), and a range of services to an additional 12 School of Medicine Departments or Centers. In addition to providing high quality services to customers, the Team also provides a culture of support and professional development for its employees.

Robert Smith, Associate Chair for Administration in the Department of Neurology, describes himself as an “early adopter,” bringing Neurology into FiRST around the time of its launch. To say he’s satisfied with the partnership would be, in his words, “an understatement.”

“The Finance and Research Support Team has been remarkable,” Smith said. “What I like most about them is that they take great ownership of their work. In the rare instances when something gets missed, people are quick to take responsibility and go out of their way to resolve the issue.”

A focus on customer service helps guide the work of Justin Stiles, a budget analyst with FiRST.

“We want to meet the department’s needs so that they can focus on their academic and clinical work,” Stiles said.

In addition to Stiles’ position as a Budget Analyst, FiRST also has staff in the roles of Accounting Technician, Accountant, and Pre-Award Specialists, covering the full scope of finance and research administration services.   

“Working with this group has been phenomenal,” said Research Administrator Nhandi Kenion. “If I encounter a problem that I have not faced before, I’m able to go to another member of the team to get their input and perspective. We are all there for each other to talk through problems.”

Exposure to the wide range of expertise within FiRST is also a professional development asset as staff can tap into the range of expertise available on the team.

FiRST provides staff with continuous access to training on new policies and systems, and crossover exposure to different roles and opportunities for management positions.  In addition to those opportunities, FiRST provides back-up for employees who need to be away from work for vacation or other reasons.

“When we had someone based solely in the department, if they were out, there was no one there and things would just pile up,” Smith said. “With the Finance and Research Support Team we are never down.”

The Finance and Research Support Team is continually accepting other departments and Centers, and they continue to work with the Carolina Value team to standardize service level agreements, develop and track performance metrics, and to improve processes.  For more information on the Finance and Research Support Team, contact Tamala Gray or Patsy Oliver.

We want to hear from you! If you have questions, comments or feedback Carolina Value, please contact: carolinavalueSOM@unc.edu

Filed under: